Amid the comfort and convenience of our modern lives, it’s easy to forget the positive effect that nature has on body and spirit. But research is proving what many of our residents already know – that getting into the garden makes for a joyful life, especially for older people.

As we age, we depend more on others; and this can have a negative impact on emotion and mental health. Tending to plants, watching them grow, and reaping the rewards of flowers and fruit all contribute to a profound sense of empowerment and wellbeing.

Gardening is enjoyed throughout the Opal family. Whether that means getting dirty, digging in the garden, or simply enjoying the natural setting through large sun-filled windows, everyone has an opportunity to be involved and experience the benefits in their own way.

Many Opal homes have community gardens where residents and Opal team members enjoy working together, tending their plots. As well as ornamental plants, all sorts of vegetables and herbs are grown, harvested and put to great use by our chefs in their delicious daily menus.

One of our keen gardeners, Rex at Quakers Hill, gets deep enjoyment from the simple act of growing produce in his own little patch of the garden. Rex enthuses, “Being able to garden in the home makes you feel like you have your own little piece of Australia – and nothing tastes sweeter than a tomato you’ve grown yourself!”

Opal Hillside is another home embracing the concept of community gardening. Raised garden beds were designed and built under the guidance of Lifestyle Coordinator, Ashleigh Yager and Maintenance Officer, Stephan Moore. The raised beds allow all residents to enjoy gardening, regardless of their physical or cognitive ability.

Ashleigh explained, “At the start, everyone was provided with step-by-step instructions on how to use the area. Now we find that our residents are organising and undertaking projects themselves and getting a great deal of satisfaction as a result.

“Our residents recently used vegetables and herbs from the garden to make their own pizzas in our in-house kitchen. It was such a wonderful feeling for everyone to see their hard work result in a delicious meal they could enjoy together”.

By gardening together, residents forge deep personal connections – contributing to an individual sense of joy and fulfilment, as well as creating a stronger community. Ken and Rex at Quakers Hill are one example of the many gardening friendships formed across our family of homes. Having met on regular bus trips to the local Men’s Shed, Ken and Rex uncovered a shared love of gardening and contributing to the community, which led to a great idea… The team at Quakers Hill provided all the seedlings and materials for the green-thumbs to get to work. The result was not only countless potted plants to sell for charity, but also a deep and enduring friendship. With a glint in his eye, Ken says, “It’s great to have someone else to get up to mischief with!”